Seventy-five to 80% of crime in our community has a connection to drug use — a startling statistic shared at Tuesday’s town hall meeting on crime.

That’s a good place to start when attempting to reduce crime in McAlester and Pittsburg County.

Solving drug-related crime involves decreasing drug abuse. That’s not an easy fix, but we must do something as a community to limit the effects of drugs.

Stepping up our ability to offer drug counseling will help.

Becoming more involved with our youth will help. We all need to feel a part of something greater than ourselves. For some that is religion, a sports team, music or art. Our children should feel a strong connection to something good or they will be attracted to something such as drugs.

We need better mental health screening and care. Some get lost in drugs who could have been helped by proper diagnosis and therapy.

There are no easy answers to helping someone get off drugs. There are no easy answers to keeping someone from trying drugs.

Drug crimes have a wide range — spanning simple possession to distribution and violent crimes associated with drug abuse.

Many of those who attended the town hall meeting called by McAlester Mayor John Browne had a connection to drug abuse or drug-related crime. There were those who told heartbreaking accounts of being victims of drug-related crime. There were those who told of loved ones who were caught up in drug abuse.

There should be at least three tiers to attacking drug-related crime in our society:

• Drug dealers — from manufacturers to distributors — should feel the full weight of justice. They deserve time behind bars. They need to be removed from society. Lawmakers need to do their best to make sentences a deterrent to dealing drugs.

• Those who commit crimes because of an addiction to drugs deserve a judicial form of tough love. We should be more compassionate — with limits — to those with an addiction rather than those who fuel the addiction of others. First-time, nonviolent offenders who break into your car, for example, could deserve a chance for rehabilitation. But our compassion should have tough limits. A second crime should mean jail time. Otherwise, repeat offenders will be out committing crime after crime as some who spoke during the town hall meeting would attest.

• Those arrested for simple drug possession deserve our most compassion as a society. If a person’s crime does not legally affect others then we believe those offenders deserve a chance to rehabilitate their lives. But cross that line between drug abuse and drug-related crime — such as theft — and be prepared to face the consequences.

If 75-80% of crime in our community is drug-related we must do something. We must try different ways to reduce drug use in our community.

No drug use equals no drug-related crime. We would love to say that 0% drug use is possible. It’s not.

But we can make an impact by reducing drug use.

Let’s get started.

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